Mobile crisis response unit provides students with mental health support

Providence social workers Nicole Gratch and Sandy Cummins discuss children who are receiving help from the Youth Crisis Diversion Program.

For students and families in western Montana, accessing mental health services is complicated and funding for services in schools is lacking. Providence Montana partners with Missoula County Youth Court and the local school district to fill this critical need and help prevent students from entering the juvenile justice system. 

In 2023, Providence launched a no-cost mobile crisis response unit to provide mental health services to three middle schools. Nicole Gratch, LCSW, a Providence social worker who is the mobile unit’s therapist, de-escalates crisis situations and helps students secure services. By reaching families through the school system, the program provides an easy access point for families who are unfamiliar with or don’t have access to behavioral health services. 

In partnership with Gratch, Sandy Cummins leads the Youth Crisis Diversion Program, a free service providing children and their families immediate crisis response and connections to resources. The program aims to support children while keeping them at home with their community. 

Through the mobile response unit, hospital and in-home support, Providence provides an integrated service network to students and families. In 2023, Gratch responded to 106 calls, serving 53 students at three middle schools and one high school, and Cummins supported 118 families in their homes. 

Gratch said learning that clients are thriving after receiving services is the most rewarding part of her job, but more work is needed to create equitable access to mental health support. 

There’s a great need to support kids experiencing substance use,” Gratch said. “We need to fill more gaps and create better connections to support, especially for marginalized populations.” 

 

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